Daniel drove us to HQ and we suited up.
I got into the full Rocket suit because Sean apparently hadn’t realized that the stealth suit was also a Rocket suit at Meijers. I’d told him, but better to make things completely unambiguous if we were going to hunt him down and pretend to be voices of authority.
Crazy. We were just about to do the same thing Red Bolt and Future Knight had done on the Michigan Heroes Alliance’s behalf after I’d punched the mayor. Not under exactly the same circumstances, but we were definitely there to do the “supers policing supers” thing to a degree.
With luck, we’d do a better job.
We flew out of the abandoned sewage tunnel on Grand Lake, flew over the water for a second, then adjusted our courses and flew toward Sean’s house without even discussing it.
With as long we’d known each other, and as much time as we’d spent in each other’s heads over the years, we barely needed to.
So, for the third time that spring, I found myself flying toward the big, Victorian house where Sean’s family lived. Daniel flew downward to figure out if Sean was home. I stayed in the air.
Though not as loud as jet engines,the full Rocket suit’s rocket pack wasn’t particularly conducive to stealth.
It didn’t take long before Daniel flew back up, moving in an effortlessly controlled and nearly silent way that’s possible when your flight isn’t dependent on hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of pounds of force shooting out of a pack on your back.
Daniel: I know where he went.
Daniel: Out to practice with his powers at that metal yard near the lake.
Me: I guess we should go there then.
The Kolba metal yard stood near the harbor on Grand Lake. Piles of scrap metal stood behind tall fences — the frames of cars, engine blocks, steel beams, and unrecognizable shards.
We descended from the sky above the yard.
It didn’t take much to identify Sean. He stood on the lake side of the yard, near the docks. In the growing darkness, light posts illuminated huge piles of unsorted metal.
A circle of scrap floated in the air above him. It reminded me somehow of The Empire Strikes Back. We didn’t have Yoda around, but I did see Dayton standing on top of the pile. As we descended, I thought I saw Jody standing next to one of the piles, but he blurred, and by the time Daniel and I touched down, he stood next to Sean.
None of them were in costume.
All three watched us land.
We landed about a hundred feet in front of Sean. Amping up the volume on the suit’s speakers so that they could definitely hear me, I said, “We should talk.”
The scrap metal continued to circle above Sean as he said, “About what?”
“A few things. Like for example, the Feds want to give you ten thousand dollars for your part in capturing Jack Maniac.”
Sean laughed. “Yeah? Cool. What do I have to do?”
“Fill out some paperwork at the FBI office. It should be easier for you since you don’t have a secret identity.”
Sean said something that we couldn’t really hear, and didn’t look quite as happy as he had before, but he didn’t attack us either.
We walked closer. Shouting wasn’t going to make the conversation easier.
Leading off with the news about the money had been Daniel’s idea, but I’d evidently screwed it up a little somehow.
Daniel: Don’t worry about it. He’s still happy about the money, but he’s been having second thoughts about the public identity.
Me: Sucks to be him then. Once you’re out, you’re pretty much stuck there.
Jody looked up at Sean. “Ten thousand dollars? Why didn’t you call me?”
Meanwhile Dayton jumped down from the top of the pile, landing in a few different spots along the way. From the easy way he dropped, and dodged sharp pieces that stuck out of the pile, it looked like he’d probably picked up some enhanced strength, and agility along with his skill mimicry abilities.
“There are a couple other things we should talk about,” I said. “First off, I’ve heard that some people out there are putting together a new version of the machine that gave Red Lightning his powers. The original Rocket thought that it was the machine that somehow changed Red Lightning. Using it isn’t a good idea, but if you are going to use it, don’t have any power juice in your system when you do. There’s some evidence that being clean will keep you safe. Tell everybody. You don’t want anyone to end up like Red Lightning.”
Sean looked at Daniel and I. “How’d you know about that?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Daniel said. “People tell us things.”
Sean looked thoughtful.
“We heard one other thing you should think about,” Daniel said. “We heard that one of your people mind controlled an entire room full of people today. You probably know that I was trained by Mindstryke who was trained by the Mentalist. That’s three generations of telepaths. Here’s something we’ve learned: Normals don’t put up with that. They’ll put up with a lot of stuff, but casual mind control isn’t one of them. What she did was probably just a misdemeanor, but as soon as you mind control a government employee, even accidentally, it becomes a felony, and depending on what you do with them, it could easily become a federal offense. Best case scenario, people get stuffed with drugs so they can’t use their powers. Worst case, they get the death penalty. Don’t let it go that far.”
Now standing next to Sean and Jody, Dayton said, “We’d better talk to Julie. I don’t think she’s thinking about this at all.”
Sean lowered his head and looked directly at us. “Is that what this is really all about? You’re trying to scare us away from using our powers. Well, we’re not a bunch of little kids. You can’t tell us what to do. You know what? You guys have the Heroes League name, but you’re not them. You just inherited their stuff and their powers. Well, with juice all over the place now, we don’t need you. We are normal people, and we can take care of things ourselves.”
A wiser person probably would have handled it better. They probably would have figured out some way to calm Sean down, and convince him that we had his best interests at heart.
I wasn’t that guy. I could see how living in fear of some shadowy group might make you suspicious of people telling you to stop using the powers you just got. I could guess that being tracked down, and told about stuff you’d done that you thought no one knew about might make you afraid.
I understood it, but that’s not what I said…
I said, “What kind of idiot are you? We’re not trying to hurt you. We’re trying to prevent you from turning into psychotic, power-mad morons. We’re trying to prevent the Feds from taking you down. That’s the only agenda we’ve got, and if you think at all, it’ll be obvious.”